Genetic parameters for piglet survival, litter size and birth weight or its variation within litter in sire and dam lines using Bayesian analysis

DNRG Kapell, CJ Ashworth, PW Knap, R Roehe

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Genetic parameters for survival at birth, litter size, birth weight and its variation within litter have been estimated in dam (D1, D2 and D3) and sire lines (S1 and S2) and genetic associations among these traits were examined. Genetic parameters, calculated as posterior means, were estimated at piglet (D1 and D2; 23,565 piglets) and litter level (all lines; 3497 litters) using a Bayesian approach. Posterior means of heritabilities for survival at piglet level (SVBP) were consistently low at 0.01, 0.06 to 0.07 and 0.04 to 0.06 for direct (h2 d), maternal (h2 m) and total (h2 t) genetic effects, respectively, with positive posterior means of correlations between the direct and maternal effect (rg-dm). For survival at litter level (SVBL) heritabilities were between 0.05 and 0.20, with highest estimates in lines with lowest birth weight. For individual piglet birth weight (IBW) heritabilities were substantially higher than for SVBP, ranging from 0.13 to 0.19 (h2 d), 0.16 to 0.28 (h2 m) and 0.08 to 0.28 (h2 t). Heritabilities for average litter birth weight (ALBW) ranged from 0.23 to 0.34, while heritabilities for variation of birth weight within litter (STD) ranged from 0.10 to 0.27. Heritabilities for number born in total (NBT) ranged from 0.11 to 0.16. Genetic associations between SVBL and NBT varied from favourable at 0.39 (D1) to unfavourable at −0.22 (D2). Genetic correlations of SVBL with ALBW and STD were mostly favourable (0.22 to 0.55 and −0.18 to −0.52, respectively) except for SVBL-ALBW in D1 (−0.50) and SVBL–STD in S2 (0.48). In D1 favourable genetic correlations were estimated between direct or maternal effects of SVBP and IBW whereas those for D2 were unfavourable. Consistently negative correlations were estimated between direct effects of SVBP and maternal effects of IBW. Adjustment for NBT resulted in slightly higher h2 d and h2 m for SVBP, with unfavourable rg-dm. Selection for survival is expected to be successful because all lines showed considerable variation for this trait and relatively high heritabilities, in particular in lines with low ALBW. Maternal heritabilities of IBW were mostly at moderate magnitude and thus of interest for selection. For most lines, the correlations between traits indicate that selection on either IBW or ALBW is indirectly increasing survival at birth. The variation in heritabilities among lines indicates that the strategy of selection for an optimal birth weight with lowest variation within litter should be considered per line individually to maximise overall genetic improvement in piglet survival and growth. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215 - 224
Number of pages10
JournalLivestock Science
Issue number2-3
Publication statusFirst published - 2011

Bibliographical note



  • Birth weight
  • Breed
  • Genetic correlation
  • Heritabilities
  • Litter size
  • Piglet survival


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